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Illnesses & Symptoms

Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease


Hand, Foot and Mouth disease is a very contagious disease that is caused by a virus. It is very common in infants and young children.


Symptoms include a fever, a rash on the hands and feet (and often buttocks and sometimes extends up the arms and legs), blister sores in the mouth (most commonly near the tonsils, but often on the lips, tongue and gums), fussiness, headache, and loss of appetite. Symptoms usually last 7-10 days, the first 3 of which are the worst.

Occasionally fingernails and toenails fall off weeks to months after this virus. There is no long term complication from this. The affected nails will slowly regrow. There is no way to predict which children will have this complication and no way to prevent it. No treatment is needed and the nails regrow on their own.

How you get it

Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease is caused most often by a coxsackie virus, most commonly found in the summer and fall and is spread from touching objects that have been contaminated. The incubation period is 3-7 days. Fever is often the first symptom for a day or two, followed by sores in the mouth, then the classic rash. Not everyone gets all the symptoms. The virus may spread for weeks after the signs and symptoms have disappeared. Some people spread the disease without having any symptoms, especially adults who have had the disease in the past and are re-exposed.


Dehydration is the most common serious complication of Hand, Foot and Mouth disease. Push fluids often when your child is ill. Cold things, such as popsicles or smoothies, are enjoyed by older toddlers. Avoid acidic or salty foods. Treating the pain is important to encourage drinking. You can use acetaminophen or ibuprofen (in children over 6 months). You can also mix 1/2 Benadryl with 1/2 Maalox and give to the child. Use the amount of Benadryl recommended for your child's age. For dosing information, click here.

For more, see Dr Stuppy's blog on Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease.

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Illnesses & Symptoms